Be prepared. That’s the Scout motto. I may have been the world’s most incompetent Scout. I was not interested in, talented in, the Scouting way. I still can’t tie a knot, I can’t build a “lean-to” and I would be lost in the woods forever if I ever went too far off the trail. By every measure I was a terrible Scout. And yet I learned one lesson from my Scouting experience, “be prepared.” As an adult I spend a lot of time looking ahead and planning for different possible outcomes for the day’s plans.
Let me provide an example of a lesson learned and a concrete plan to “be prepared”. At a previous church where I served I had done some work that morning with some homeless folks. Not wanting to make them uncomfortable I dressed in jeans and sweater. As I walked through the hallway at the church my colleague in ministry reminded me that we both had a funeral to attend that afternoon. Oh oh. I immediately ran from that church to the closest Salvation Army Thrift Store about 2 miles away. At the store I found a mint condition lite-blue dress shirt, a pin-striped designer blue suit (100% wool), and a red Brooks Brothers silk tie. The combined cost was $17. I already had black leather Stacey Adams dress shoes I had purchased for $6 at Value Village and was wearing dark socks already. I was ready for the funeral! When my colleague and I walked into the Hall where the funeral would take place I received numerous compliments on my attire. The story was memorable and I know the folks at that church still like to tell that story.
After that incident I left the entire set of clothing I wore that day in my office. I washed and ironed the dress shirt and brought that back to the office where it rests with the other clothes. I have since added a used London Fog trench coat, a rain jacket, a fleece jacket and a pair of brown dress shoes, all used and in mint condition, to the “be prepared” assortment of clothes. And I have a winter toque and gloves to boot. I am ready!
The Bible speaks a lot about being ready, staying awake. The context is a little different, the notion there is that the Messiah will arrive and we as believers need to be attentive to his presence. But the general rule is similar, whether we are ready or prepared we will be thinking ahead and making plans. Today it is cold and my day off from work. I don’t like being cold but I love the fresh air and wondering through our neighbourhood with our dog. So I have a standard winter outfit for the occasion, all used and all in perfect condition, insulated fleece jacket, bright yellow construction jacket, MEC toque, ski-doo gloves, and water-resistant boots. With these clothes I am ready for any temperature, I can enjoy the cool fresh air and not worry about being cold.
I wonder how many things in our lives we stop doing because of a bad experience when if we had been prepared the whole adventure might have been a memorable one. I wonder how many times when things got very stressful and worrisome we might have avoided all of it and instead enjoyed the day if we had planned ahead and been ready. One cannot plan for every eventuality but one can think ahead for those that seem likely to present challenges.